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Khyal: Music and Imagination

Khyal: Music and Imagination

Image: © Mahajabin Imam Majumdar inspired by Raga Marwa performed by Ranjani Ramachandran

Khyal: Music and Imagination brought together an international team of ethnomusicologists, singers of Indian classical music, arts professionals and visual artists to develop original artwork and deliver public engagement activities in the North East of England. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the project was based at Durham University and involved the collaboration of partners including GemArts and the Laing Art Gallery.

Khyal: Music and Imagination built on academic research into the ways in which Indian musicians and audiences experience and imagine classical vocal performance, using its insights to generate new kinds of engagement and creativity. Visual artists worked with musicians, ethnomusicologists and GemArts staff to explore the khyal genre, producing original works of visual art inspired by the music. This work in turn facilitated new forms of engagement accessible to a wide range of people: in schools, at concerts and festivals, and at museums and galleries.

The project team includes a diverse group of professionals: visual artists based in both the UK and India, ethnomusicologists, and performing musicians. Findings of earlier research fed into the project, particularly resrearch around the moods and emotions expressed in khyal music and the role of visual imagery in both performance and listening. Artists were introduced to Durham University and GemArts' extensive collection of audiovisual recordings and interview transcripts, from which relevant source material was then selected. Three visual artists Dr Adinda van ‘t Klooster, Mahjabin Imam Majumdar, and Theresa Poulton were commissioned to produce original artwork in the media of their choice inspired by the performances and recordings. GemArts facilitated a series of school workshops with the artists, during which school children were encouraged to engage with the idea of music and visual imagery, and produced their own art works.

The project also developed an interactive iPad application which allows users to engage with audiovisual recordings of Indian music, and explore khyal music in more detail. All of these elements - original research materials, interactive app, professional and school children's artwork - werre combined in the first public exhibition of Khyal Music and Imagination, presented at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle in November 2017. The exhibition then toured nationally and internationally, and is currently on display in Durham’s Oriental Museum (until June 2018). For more information visit: or download our informative Khyal Music and Imagination brochure  which brings the project to life. 

For information on the exhibition visit Khyal: Music and Imagination Exhibition.

GemArts and Durham University launched the beautiful Khyal: Music and Imagination exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery on Friday 4th November 2016 with a stunning vocal performance by Mowna Ramachandra. View images from the launch below.

Khyal: Music and Imagination project team
  • Dr Laura Leante (Principal Investigator)
  • Prof Martin Clayton (Co-Investigator)
  • Visual artists Dr Adinda van ‘t Klooster, Mahjabin Imam Majumdar, and Theresa Poulton.
  • Khyal singers Atul Khandekar, Sudokshina Manna Chatterjee, Ranjani Ramachandran, and Surashree Ulhas Joshi.
  • Dr Simone Tarsitani (Research Technician)
  • Partners: Durham University, GemArts, Laing Art Gallery